|Industry||Video game industry|
|Headquarters||San Rafael, California, United States|
|Products||Graphic adventure games|
Number of employees
Telltale Games, Inc is an American independent digital developer and publisher founded in June 2004 as Telltale, Incorporated. Based in San Rafael, California, the studio includes designers formerly employed by LucasArts. Its business model revolves around episodic gaming and digital distribution, and it is best known for its various graphic adventure game series based on popular licensed properties.
Many of the games that have been developed by Telltale Games are released episodically. Several episodes, released together in a season, are released periodically through a certain timeframe, often concluding around half a year or so after the initial release. Despite critical and commercial success, Telltale's titles are reported to encounter notable bugs and technical deficiencies.
Notable titles by Telltale include adventure-game adaptations of Sam & Max; Homestar Runner; Monkey Island; the movie series Back to the Future and Jurassic Park; the comic book series The Walking Dead and Fables; the HBO TV series Game of Thrones; Tales from the Borderlands, a spinoff to the video game series Borderlands; and the series Minecraft: Story Mode, a spinoff to the video game Minecraft.
Telltale Games was founded by Dan Connors, Kevin Bruner and Troy Molander a group of former LucasArts employees who had been working on Sam & Max: Freelance Police, a sequel to the 1993 game Sam & Max Hit the Road, prior to its cancellation on March 3, 2004. In an early press release the vocal public response to said cancellation was cited as a main reason the company was founded. The Telltale Games team has a large collective experience working on LucasArts' famed classics.
Telltale Games was formed in San Rafael, California with the assistance of technology attorney Ira P. Rothken who provided initial seed capital, procured angel investments, and negotiated deals involving Bone, Sam & Max, GameTap, Ubisoft, and others which led to initial revenue, marketing, and development of the core episodic game technology.
On February 11, 2005, the company released their first game, Telltale Texas Hold'em, a poker card game simulator which was intended primarily to test the Telltale Tool, their in-house game engine. This was followed by two games based on Jeff Smith's Bone comic book series. More episodes were planned, but later aborted. They then developed CSI: 3 Dimensions of Murder for Ubisoft, and although it was composed of several free-standing episodes, it was released exclusively at retail as a single package. The same is true for the follow ups, CSI: Hard Evidence, CSI: Deadly Intent, and CSI: Fatal Conspiracy.
After securing two rounds of angel investment from San Francisco Bay Area angels including superangel Matthew Le Merle and members of angel group Keiretsu Forum, Telltale attempted to buy the rights to complete Sam & Max: Freelance Police from LucasArts, but when they were denied, they secured the rights to create new games from series creator Steve Purcell. Unlike their previous games, Sam & Max: Season One (published in collaboration with GameTap) was their first episodic series released on a tight monthly schedule—a landmark for the game industry. The series proved successful, and Telltale went on to produce two additional Sam & Max seasons. Since then, they have continued to produce series based on popular licenses released in monthly, and more recently in bi-monthly, episodes. Several series that Telltale went on to work with were largely comedic, including games based on Wallace & Gromit (until 2014 when their distribution rights for Wallace & Gromit games expired) and Homestar Runner. Tales of Monkey Island, based on the popular LucasArts series, marked one of their most successful series to date, owing in part to the history many of its developers had with LucasArts adventure games.
To supplement their normal episodic games, Telltale created a pilot program in early 2010 to explore one-off games that would explore other gameplay and storytelling approaches that could eventually be incorporated into their episodic games. The first game, Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent, a puzzle-solving game in collaboration with Graham Annable, was released in the middle of June 2010, while Poker Night at the Inventory, a crossover poker game featuring characters from Sam and Max, Homestar Runner, Valve's Team Fortress 2, and the webcomic Penny Arcade, was released late in 2010. Telltale later went on to follow up Puzzle Agent with a sequel, Puzzle Agent 2, in 2011. Additionally, in 2013, Telltale continued the Poker Night series with Poker Night 2. The Pilot Program is also utilized by Telltale Games to develop new game play ideas that are then adapted to their normal episodic game series. The Walking Dead started out as a Pilot Program title that was known internally as the "zombie prototype".
Growth and franchise acquisitions
Having established themselves as working with comedy franchises, Telltale later chose to work with dramatic franchises as well in addition to comedy series. In June 2010, Telltale announced that they had secured licences with NBC Universal to develop two episodic series based on Back to the Future and Jurassic Park. Further series based on licensed properties were announced in February 2011, including series based on the comic book series The Walking Dead and Fables in association with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, and a series based on the King's Quest adventure games by Sierra. Telltale's King's Quest was confirmed to be cancelled on April 3, 2013.
By 2010, Telltale has proven itself successful, with yearly revenues of $10 million, 90% greater than the previous year. Part of this is attributed to Back to the Future: The Game, which Steve Allison, the senior vice president of marketing, called in 2011 their "most successful franchise to date". Allison states that for most of their games, they only need to sell 100,000 copies to break even, but many of their recent releases have seen twice that number or more; Allison anticipated that The Walking Dead series could be a $20 to $30 million franchise. Telltale expects with the additional licensed franchises, the studio and its revenues will continue to grow at a similar pace. They announced expectations of the studio to expand from their 90 employees to 140.
In 2012, Telltale had its biggest success yet with The Walking Dead, which sold one million copies in 20 days, and topped the sales charts on Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, and Steam. Due to the success of the first game, Telltale announced a sequel in July 2012. Telltale announced intentions to move to a new location and expand from 125 to 160 in Spring 2013, after The Walking Dead sold 8.5 million episodes.
Telltale announced two additional series, Tales from the Borderlands, based on the Borderlands series from Gearbox Software, and Game of Thrones, based on the HBO television show adaption of the books, at the 2013 Spike VGX video game awards program. Tales from the Borderlands came out of ideas discussed during the 2012 Spike Video Game Awards between Telltale and Gearbox who were sitting at adjacent tables, noting the narration and unique characters of the Borderlands series. Sometime afterwards, Telltale approached Gearbox with their game concept and Gearbox readily welcomed the project. The Game of Thrones game arose from internal discussions within Telltale of what other popular franchises they would write games around, with much support given for Game of Thrones, considering it emotionally equivalent to their The Walking Dead game. They approached HBO with the concept, and after a year of negotiations, were able to secure the license.
In December 2014, Telltale Games and Mojang announced Minecraft: Story Mode a standalone episodic title from the Minecraft game, to be released episodically in 2015. The title will be developed by Telltale but will use input from the Minecraft community to help fashion its story, though will not attempt to fix any of the lore for Minecraft. The title was inspired in part by many of Telltale's developers being fans of Minecraft, as well as from awareness of published narrative content developed around the game. Discussions with Mojang towards a Telltale game began before Microsoft's acquisition of the company, though Telltale's existing relationship with Microsoft allowed the development to continue without difficulties afterwards. Patton Oswalt will perform voice work for the game.
In February 2015, Lions Gate Entertainment announced an investment within Telltale Games to produce a number of "Super Shows" - a hybrid interactive work combining television and video game elements, which can be distributed through non-traditional channels such as through streaming services. The first Super Show planned is an original IP that Telltale has been developing that is said to be able to take advantage of this format. In addition to this, Telltale announced that Lions Gate CEO Jon Feltheimer and Unity Technologies' CEO John Riccitiello have joined Telltale's board of directors. Telltale announced a partnership with Marvel Entertainment to develop at least one game based on a Marvel Comics property in 2017.
Telltale Games presents itself specifically as a developer of episodic games. Many critics feel that Telltale is the only company to have done episodic gaming right. Telltale is also seen by movie studios and other content producers to take a more realistic approach to movie tie-in games; rather than the difficult model of "see the movie; play the game", Telltale is noted for working with studios and screenwriters to create a strong experience that pays homage to the original film or franchise.
While chiefly a developer, Telltale Games values its ability to self-publish their games; the only times it has had a classic developer-publisher relationship is with Ubisoft for the CSI games. They have struck financial arrangements with GameTap for the first two seasons of the rebooted Sam & Max games, but for the rest their publishing arrangements have been made after the games were already completed and had already been sold via digital distribution.
Telltale aims to have a presence on as many platforms and avenues of digital distribution as possible. To date, they have released games through GameTap, on PC and OS X through Steam and similar services in addition to their own online store, on Wii via WiiWare and disc, on Xbox 360 via Xbox Live Arcade and disc, on PlayStation 3 through PlayStation Network and disc, on iPhone and iPad through iTunes, on PlayStation Vita, and on Kindle Fire HDX. Though Telltale normally port their own games to other systems, CSI: 3 Dimensions of Murder was ported to the PlayStation 2 by Ubisoft Bulgaria and Bone: Out from Boneville was ported to Mac OS by Vanbrio. Telltale Games was one of the companies who Sony confirmed have pledged third party support for the PlayStation 4 at the PlayStation Meeting 2013.
In January 2015, Dan Connors, the CEO of the company since its creation, stepped down with co-founder Kevin Bruner taking over the role. Connors noted that with the studios' continued growth, they began experiencing some growing pains and that Bruner's placement of CEO would be better to lead the company for further opportunity for more expansion in the future. Connors remains on the board of directors for Telltale and acts as a creative consultant. Bruner stated that as part of this change, the company is currently developing a game based on their own intellectual property in addition to their continuing licensed games.
Telltale's games are reported to suffer from bugs and technical deficiencies to an unusual degree, which may impede the players' progress in the game. A 2015 article by Kotaku noted that "their games, wonderful in many ways as they may be, have been accompanied by an undercurrent of fan anger" over widespread bugs and glitches, and concluded that Telltale's support forums "paint a portrait of a publisher that is constantly releasing buggy and even outright broken games", without having the resources to fix or even address most of these problems.
|Game||Release Date||# of Episodes||Platform(s)|
|Telltale Texas Hold'em||February 11, 2005||1 episode (standalone title)||PC|
|Bone: Out from Boneville||September 15, 2005||1 episode (standalone title) E||PC, OS X|
|CSI: 3 Dimensions of Murder||March 21, 2006||5 episodes (standalone title)||PC, PS2|
|Bone: The Great Cow Race||April 12, 2006||1 episode (standalone title) E||PC|
|Sam & Max Save the World||October 17, 2006 – April 26, 2007||6 episodes (monthly)||PC, Wii, Xbox 360|
|CSI: Hard Evidence||September 25, 2007||5 episodes (standalone title)||PC, OS X, Wii, Xbox 360|
|Sam & Max Beyond Time and Space||November 8, 2007 – April 10, 2008||5 episodes (monthly)||iOS, PC, OS X, PS3, Wii, Xbox 360|
|Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People||August 11, 2008 – December 15, 2008||5 episodes (monthly)||PC, OS X, PS3, Wii|
|Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures||March 24, 2009 – July 30, 2009||4 episodes (monthly)||iOS, PC, Xbox 360|
|Tales of Monkey Island||July 7, 2009 – December 8, 2009||5 episodes (monthly)||iOS, PC, OS X, PS3, Wii|
|CSI: Deadly Intent||October 20, 2009||5 episodes (standalone title)||PC, Wii, Xbox 360|
|Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse||April 15, 2010 – August 30, 2010||5 episodes (monthly)||iOS, PC, OS X, PS3|
|Hector: Badge of Carnage D||June 2, 2010 – September 22, 2011||3 episodes (monthly)||iOS, PC, OS X|
|Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent||June 30, 2010||1 episode (standalone title) E P||iOS, PC, OS X, PS3|
|CSI: Fatal Conspiracy||October 26, 2010||5 episodes (standalone title)||PC, PS3, Wii, Xbox 360|
|Poker Night at the Inventory||November 22, 2010||1 episode (standalone title) E P||PC, OS X|
|Back to the Future: The Game||December 22, 2010 – June 23, 2011||5 episodes (monthly)||iOS, PC, OS X, PS3, PS4, Wii, Xbox 360, Xbox One|
|Puzzle Agent 2||June 30, 2011||1 episode (standalone title) E P||iOS, PC, OS X|
|Jurassic Park: The Game||November 15, 2011||4 episodes (standalone title)
4 episodes (bi-monthly) (iOS)
|iOS, PC, OS X, PS3, Xbox 360|
|Law & Order: Legacies||December 22, 2011 – March 29, 2012||7 episodes (bi-weekly)||iOS, PC, OS X|
|The Walking Dead: Season One||April 24, 2012 – November 20, 2012
July 2, 2013
|5 episodes (bi-monthly)
1 episode (400 Days)
|Android, iOS, PC, OS X, PS3, PS4, PSVita, Xbox 360, Xbox One|
|Poker Night 2||April 24, 2013||1 episode (standalone title) E P||iOS, PC, OS X, PS3, Xbox 360|
|The Wolf Among Us||October 11, 2013 – July 8, 2014||5 episodes (bi-monthly)||Android, iOS, PC, OS X, PS3, PS4, PSVita, Xbox 360, Xbox One|
|The Walking Dead: Season Two||December 17, 2013 – August 26, 2014||5 episodes (bi-monthly)||Android, iOS, PC, OS X, PS3, PS4, PSVita, Xbox 360, Xbox One|
|Tales from the Borderlands||November 25, 2014 – October 20, 2015||5 episodes (quarterly)||Android, iOS, PC, OS X, PS3, PS4, PSVita, Xbox 360, Xbox One|
|Game of Thrones: Season One||December 2, 2014 – November 17, 2015||6 episodes (bi-monthly)||Android, iOS, PC, OS X, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One|
|Minecraft: Story Mode||October 13, 2015 – present||5 episodes (monthly)||Android, iOS, PC, OS X, PS3, PS4, PSVita, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One|
|The Walking Dead: Michonne||February 2016||3 episodes (standalone title)||TBD|
|Untitled Batman game||2016||Episodic||TBD|
|Untitled Marvel game||2017||Episodic||TBD|
|The Walking Dead: Season Three||TBD||Episodic||TBD|
|Game of Thrones: Season Two||TBD||Episodic||TBD|
- E. ^ Episodes within season released as standalone titles
- P. ^ Pilot Program title
- D. ^ Developed by Straandlooper, converted to Telltale Tool and published by Telltale
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